Interview with our Norwegian guide Torjus Gaaren

Elements Expeditions: Who are you?

Torjus Gaaren: I’m a man who likes my freedom.

EE: Wat do you do?

TG: I’m living a fairly ordinary life, except for the fact that it is in relative basic conditions. I have no water nor electricity in the house and I hunt and fish for the majority of my food during the year. I’m practicing ancient crafts, such as skin preparation for making clothes.

EE: Can you describe Fyresdal?

TG: Right now in April there is a bit of snow left, but spring is here and we’re burning the lands to rejuvenate them. We haven’t gotten any leaves yet.

EE: Why do you do what you do?

TG: When I was trying to live in the city, I always found myself looking back at what I had here, in the valleys of Fyresdal. It suits my freedom and my visions of the future.

EE: What is your connection to Fyresdal?

TG: It is best described by comparing it to a tree. You can dig up a tree and replant it somewhere else, yet the tree would suffer and take a long time to acclimatize. It’s a case of having all of my roots here. And by now the tree is quite big and so it is quite difficult to move.

EE: You have 2 daughters living in the city. How is that?

TG: It was a difficult choice but it was necessary in order to preserve my sanity. It didn’t make me a good father to live in the city. I have tried it for 6 years.

EE: What happened. Why didn’t it work?

TG: It doesn’t work, because the shallowness tends to get to me. That is one of the things. City people tend to engage in shallow conversations and shallow relationships in order to protect themselves from the chaos of mass society. This is something that I don’t deal with very well. It is not inspiring to me and the world just seems cold. And I couldn’t practice my interests there. Since I knew the amount of freedom here in the valley, it was hard for me to accept that I couldn’t hunt, fish, burn or do whatever I pleased without it costing money in some way. I was missing the freedom that I have here.

EE: It seems to have a lot to do with freedom, correct?

TG: Yes, freedom of action. Apart from that, I know everybody around here. There is so much opportunity here in so many ways. You could say that there is a lot of opportunity in the city too because there are a lot of jobs there, a lot of career positions, a large customer base. The trouble is that everything costs a fortune there. So even if I make less money here, it takes me less time here to get what I want.

EE: How has your connection to nature developed over the years?

TG: When I was a child my connection was much more similar to what it is now than what it was when I was in my early twenties. As a child I was really seeing the magic in nature. But for the period of time that I was an atheist in my early twenties, everything was bleak and materialistic. However, there is an important difference between my childhood connection to nature and my current connection to nature. Now I look upon nature as something that is ever changing. There is nothing you can do to nature that will create a disaster. We’re allowed to make mistakes and for sure that is what will happen. As a kid any change seemed horrible. That is the difference.

EE: What is the value for people to be in nature?

TG: To me being in nature touches upon every level of our existence. I think that people are used to living a life where everything is fast and shallow. Where you don’t listen, you just say. Always trying to do the best you can do. In a way it is a stressful situation and many people are in some kind of constant survival mode. You create ideas in your head to justify all the shit that happens and you’re creating personality flaws in yourself to protect yourself, like anti-social behavior. Once you step into nature, you can step out of all of these disconnections. Nature doesn’t show mercy. She doesn’t care how much money you make. If you don’t know how to fish or hunt, she won’t spoil you. It is especially important for people who are economically successful in their lives to go into nature and challenge themselves, because nature will humble you and put you back into your place and to what you really are, which is essentially nothing.

 

EE: That sounds like a daunting value proposition. Why would a successful man want to do that?

TG: Because humility is important to successful people. The reason for that is that their success is dependent upon healthy relationships in their lives with customers and partners. Without a good connection to yourself that is impossible to achieve. The humility that nature provides you enables you to get a reality check. Arrogance can be your downfall. Humility is the antidote. It will make it more easy for a person to achieve his vision, whatever that may be.

EE: What do you typically see change in people when they join you on one of your programs?

TG: It is hard to generalize. The differences seem to correlate with the type of people that join. Some people are very empowered in their daily lives. Those people tend to get a reality check. For some people it becomes too much for their ego as they might be used to having everything go their way. It can take a long time for them to step out of it. But in a week’s time most people succeed in doing so. For a person who is humbler in life and is not having such an easy time it can be quite empowering, because achievement is not so complex in nature. It can be as easy as getting a few fish. In nature you can live in a tent and build your life from scratch without all the complexities and worries of a normal civilized life. So, I think it is as important for people who are currently successful, as for people who are not successful, as for people who are now experiencing a downturn in their success. All of those people have great benefit of spending extended times in nature.

EE: Wat does nature teach you about fear?

TG: If you’re going to get your food and everything you need out of nature it is probably more a matter of what it teaches you about trust. Because without trusting that there will be food, that things will be alright, that the weather will get better or that the summer will come your life will be hell. And I think this is just as important in daily life. When it comes to challenging your fears, it is in essence about establishing trust. Looking upon something as fear is just focusing on the negative side of something that is really a matter of trust, which is a positive quality.

EE: What advice would you give to the younger version of yourself? Perhaps the atheist that was disconnected the most.


TG: The most important would be not to try to achieve something. Because as long as your trying to achieve something that is beyond your passion you are running the risk of ending up in the wrong place. I would tell myself to accept myself and follow my dreams, because there is no one who can know exactly what the future brings and your dreams might be just as good as the dreams that everybody else has or society is trying to impose upon you.

EE: What does it mean to be a man?

TG: To be a man is a matter of responsibility. And that is what separates the man from the boy. The man is taking responsibility for something outside of himself. The boy is not yet secure enough for himself to do so.

EE: How is it for you to host Elements Expeditions?

TG: It’s awesome. What I get out of it is that I’m not meeting tourists. I’m meeting people who are passionate, who are driven, who are interested in getting somewhere in life. They’re not here to just sit and relax. They’re here to get the most out of the experience. That is what I love about Elements Expeditions.